Airkeeper Award Winners Announced on Eve of NC BREATHE Conference

Apr 14, 2016

Charlotte, NC – Two annual air quality events took place during National Public Health Week in Charlotte sponsored by the statewide organization Clean Air Carolina and other groups committed to educating the public about the health, economic and environmental impacts of air pollution. Representatives from the medical community, environmental organizations, government and universities gathered to honor the work of individuals and companies working to improve air quality at a special Airkeeper Awards reception April 7, the eve of the 2016 NC BREATHE Conference at UNC Charlotte Center City.

Clean Air Carolina has an annual tradition of recognizing individuals and organizations for their leadership in air quality protection.  Airkeepers honored include retired physician Dr. James Kenny of Greenville, NC, responsible for a city-wide no-idle campaign, Nakisa Glover, a Charlotte community organizer working on climate justice issues, and Novant Health, Rodgers Leeper and Vannoy Construction, three companies taking action to reduce toxic diesel emissions at two health care construction sites in Mecklenburg County.

Joe Fiorenza, Director of construction operations for Novant Health remarked, “Novant Health Construction Operations fully supports and contributes to Clean Air Carolina in its efforts to use cleaner construction practices that can reduce construction vehicle diesel emissions that will benefit our patients, staff, construction workers, and the environment”.

In addition, NC Attorney General Roy Cooper received an Airkeeper Award at the NC BREATHE Conference on April 8 for his leadership in overseeing the implementation of North Carolina’s Clean Smokestacks legislation and his successful petitioning of the federal government to require Tennessee Valley Authority to clean up its coal plants polluting Western North Carolina.

The awards were presented by Clean Air Carolina’s Executive Director June Blotnick with special remarks by June Lambla of Lambla ArtWORKS and curator of KEEPING WATCH on AIR, an exhibit co-sponsored by UNC Charlotte’s College of Arts + Architecture at their Projective Eye Gallery uptown. “We are delighted to honor these individuals whose professional leadership and personal commitment to the cause of clean air is resulting in healthier communities across our state,” said Blotnick.

The Airkeeper Awards reception took place at UNC Charlotte Center City beginning at 6:30 pm on Thursday, April 7. After a gallery tour and the awards presentation, guests gathered outside to see Particle Falls, an animation projected on the side of the Center City building showing real-time fine particle pollution from passing vehicles. Particle Falls is co-sponsored by Clean Air Carolina, UNC Charlotte College of Arts + Architecture and the Arts & Science Council.

NC BREATHE Conference

On April 8 Clean Air Carolina, UNC Charlotte College of Arts + Architecture and other partners sponsored the second annual NC BREATHE Conference bringing over 200 scientists, medical researchers, health professionals, economists, clean air advocates, government officials and students together to consider the linkages between air pollution, climate change, public health and the economy. Plenary speakers included Senior Research Scientist from the Harvard Chan School of Public Health Antonella Zanobetti who was included on Thomson Reuter’s 2015 list of the most highly cited researchers in science and social sciences. Approximately 3,000 researchers worldwide earned this distinction. Other plenary speakers were Chris Timmins, Economics Professor at Duke University who also serves as research associate in the Environmental and Energy Economics group at the National Bureau of Economic Research and Jason West, Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he performs interdisciplinary research addressing air pollution and climate change.

Eight breakout sessions in the afternoon covered such diverse topics as Clean Air and Heart Health, Citizen Science, Reducing Carbon Emissions and the Economics of Clean Air Policymaking.  New research findings from Duke University were presented showing how mortality rates in North Carolina for heart attack and stroke were reduced during years in which federal and state clean air rules were implemented. A full list of sessions can be found at